Indirect provision: Asylum seekers waiting three years for first interview 

Like other arms of government, the immigration system has been negatively impacted by Covid, with interviews cancelled and waiting times increasing.  Syed Uddin and Chicco Kalala have been waiting over three years for their first interview
Indirect provision: Asylum seekers waiting three years for first interview 

Chicco Kalala's came to Ireland in 2017 and did his asylum interview in 2018. He is still awaiting a decision while he lives in Hanratty's Hotel in Limerick City.

“People get shocked when they hear about my case,’’ says Syed Uddin.

Syed is 36 years old. Originally from Bangladesh, he sought asylum in Ireland on 18th December 2017. Since then, he has lived in a shared room at Kinsale Road Direct Provision [DP] centre just outside Cork. He hasn’t yet done his asylum interview with the International Protection Office (IPO).

People who sought asylum with him have been through the process, left Direct Provision (DP) and are now living a normal life.

"I feel like sometimes it's only me that is waiting for an interview and when I remember that it hurts me, because I don't know how long the process will take and how long I have to be in the DP,’’ Syed adds.

The Department Of Justice (DOJ) told The Irish Examiner that usually the people who are stuck for three years or more are the people who have received negative decisions, and are appealing their decisions in court.

Syed Mosih Uddin had to quit his band, Citadel, to focus on courses to improve his skills. 
Syed Mosih Uddin had to quit his band, Citadel, to focus on courses to improve his skills. 

The DOJ says it is committed to making this and further efficiencies in the international protection process and Minister Helen McEntee has established a high-level programme board to assess recommendations related to the processing of international protection applications and the appeals process.

In 2020, the median processing time for all international protection applications by the IPO was 17.6 months, with 12.7 months for prioritised applications.

Since arriving in Cork, Syed has been involved in a music band called Citadel, which has performed in several places across Ireland. Then he had to quit the band to focus on courses to improve his skills as he did level five in English and IT in Cork College of Commerce. 

Most recently, during the pandemic, Syed has been working as a security guard at Pfizer pharmaceutical.

"I have a plan to continue to study,’’ he explains. 

At this critical moment, I am working just because I want to contribute to the country's economy. I am not physically and mentally fit but I am still working.

At home in Bangladesh, Syed was studying arts and became involved in student politics. His older brother was vice president of the National party of Bangladesh, a major opposition party founded in 1978 by the former Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman. 

Because of this, he believes, Syed was attacked in 2009 and had to flee.

''I and my family don't feel secure about my life so I have left the country. Being abroad the last 12 years and my party is not in power so all the time the police and ruling party are threatening my brother and family,'' Syed says.

I have been abused back home and I have been suffering from post-polio from an early age and I am taking painkillers every day which makes me feel sleepy all the time.

Since 2018, Syed has been asking for a single room. He has sent all his medical documents to The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS), which runs the direct provision system, but he’s still sharing a room with someone who has their own mental health challenges.

He believes the system could be vastly speeded up using video interviews while IPO employees are working from home during the pandemic.


In June 2020, the UN’s High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR] said in its practical consideration guide for states in Europe that videoconferencing or telephone as an alternative to face-to-face interviews are a good practice to maintain asylum procedures and manage backlogs.

According to the Department of Justice, there is an additional €1m budget allocated for the immigration service in 2020. This is to provide more staff for the IPO and to provide video interview technology services for applicants who live outside Dublin for the first time on a pilot basis by the IPO.

In a parliamentary question on June 16, 2020, Deputy Cian O'Callaghan [SD] asked the Minister for Justice and Equality at that time Deputy Charles Flanagan about the average time it takes for an asylum seeker to receive a definitive final response on their application.

Minister Flanagan said that at the end of February 2020, prior to the pandemic, an applicant who applied for international protection could have expected to receive a first instance recommendation/decision within approximately 11-12 months, with prioritised applications being processed within 8-9 months provided that no complications arose and that application figures did not rise further. 

Covid-19 restrictions had impacted the asylum procedures and the interviews had been suspended, he said, adding that the IPO is working hard for each applicant to get a decision within nine months.

“However it must be acknowledged that the processing of applications is complex and that each application deserves and receives an individual assessment,” Mr Flanagan said.

International protection application waiting times:

  • 3 years - the length of time Syed Uddin has been waiting for his first interview
  • 17.6 months - the median processing time for all international protection applications by the IPO
  • 12.7 months - the median processing time for prioritised applications
  • 11-12 months - the average wait for a first-time applicant for a decision, prior to the pandemic
  • 8-9 months - the average wait time for a prioritised applicant prior to the pandemic

Doras is an NGO working with refugees and asylum seekers that focuses on integration. Speaking to The Irish Examiner, John Lannon the head of Doras said that reporting the median figures hides the fact that some people are waiting quite a long time for an outcome to their case.

“We are supporting people that are waiting much longer than the quoted timeframes,’’ he says.

Syed Mosih Uddien said that staying in DP affects his mental health and he is taking medication and getting counselling sessions from Spirasi, the national centre for the rehabilitation of victims of torture in Ireland.

“I don't like to stay in DP and I have been trying to keep myself busy with study and work and stuff,’’ Syed says.

Mr Lannon said that living in DP has a damaging effect on people and the longer someone is waiting for a decision on their case the more detrimental the effect, which has resulted in instances of self-harm and suicide.

Chicco Kalala

Chicco Kalala is 37 years old. He came to Ireland in 2017 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is studying English and doing some voluntary work while he lives in Hanratty's Hotel in Limerick City.

"I came to Ireland in 2017 and I did my asylum interview in 2018. They never contacted me again despite my colleague having a similar case and being from my country. He came after I did but he got his response in 2019,’’ Chicco told The Irish Examiner.

Chicco doesn't see any reason for all the delay and believes the solicitor he was appointed by the government is not interested in his case.

His village was attacked by rebels in Congo, so he wasn’t safe there and he hasn’t seen his family for more than four years.

Chicco said:

Living with an unknown future is stressful and anxious and affects my mental health. 

"This is especially so when I see three people where I live are so visible that they were affected living in this place. They talk to themselves every day and I hope to get my decision soon to stop that feeling." 

Kalala struggles with the place where he lives, and says he has been eating the same food every day for three-and-a-half years. After arriving he stayed for a month in Balseskin — the DP reception center in north Dublin — then he got transferred to Hanratty's Hotel in Limerick City where he’s stuck now.

The DOJ doesn’t comment on individual cases, but a spokesperson said the department is aware of “very small numbers” of applicants whose first interviews weren’t scheduled for close to three years. That delay can vary depending on the individual circumstances of the applicants concerned.

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